Thursday, October 1, 2015

Comic Book review: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, Volume One: Priceless

When Marvel acquired the rights to Angela, formerly a character from Image’s Spawn comics, they chose to place her in the company of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a bold move, to be sure, but she felt right at home in that cosmic setting. Angela was hell on legs, able to best most of the Guardians in battle before befriending them, and carrying on a flirtatious rivalry with Gamora. It was a gamble that paid off in spades, as Angela was able to flourish in her own identity, playing off the Guardians wonderfully, while still feeling as though there was plenty of potential for development down the road.

Enter Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, a series wherein Angela is the main character, rediscovering her Asgardian roots, and quickly finding herself on the run from her long-lost brothers Odinson and Loki. Her crime? Stealing her younger sister, eventual heir to the Asgardian throne, and leaping through the nine realms with the baby in tow. Also in Angela’s company is Sera, a former angel who lived not unlike a monk among the few male angels before leaving on her adventures with Angela. At some point before the start of this first volume, Sera was killed, only to be mysteriously resurrected, and Angela’s desire to know why and how Sera returned to the land of the living serves as a secondary mystery.

There is a lot going on in this first trade paperback volume – too much, in fact. While Odinson and Loki are shown as the initial pursuers, some of the forces of Hel also chase after Angela, Sera, and the baby, while the story flashes back every so often to Asgard to explore Odin and his views on this very complicated family reunion. Yet, there is actually quite a limited amount of time spent in Heven. Only during the last couple of chapters do Angela and Sera actually enter the realm of the Angels, a place which boasts more future-tech than myth and magic. Given how significant a change-up to the previously-established nine realms this new tenth one is, Marvel could have easily devoted an entire trade paperback volume solely to Angela’s roots and the history of the angels.

Angela’s portrayal sees an odd reversal from how she was depicted in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics. She’s still willing to cut down anyone who challenges her, but has lost much of the ferocity she was once known and feared for. Instead, she preaches the system of repayment that the angels apparently base all of their actions around – if someone asks her for a favor, Angela will oblige, but only after reminding them that they must eventually offer her something of a similar value (whether said offering is a physical object or action). It’s an interesting concept, but one that wholly contradicts her presentation in the Guardians comics.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin is quite heavily steeped in the mythos of the Thor comics, and current events from Odinson’s life. The Thor comics have long existed within their own sphere, to a certain degree, separate from the more closely-interwoven storylines of Avengers members, the X-Men, and most of the other Earth-based heroes. The same can be said of cosmic Marvel – much as Nova, Captain Marvel, and the Guardians of the Galaxy might cross paths with one another, Asgardians tend to stick to the realm of might and magic, save for Thor’s frequent team-ups with Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and the other core Avengers members. Nine times out of ten, there is so much lore at play in the Thor comics that it is difficult, even discouraging for newcomers to jump on board, and while Angela: Asgard’s Assassin is not quite as explicit an offender in this regard, there is still a decent portion of backstory that is barely even glossed over, with the assumption that readers are up to speed on recent Asgardian history.

Angela does earn herself a radical new outfit by the end of this trade paperback collection, and the action sequences are plenty exciting to look at. But as a character, Angela performs best when she receives the spotlight for more than just violent actions. Future storylines centered around this fallen angel will prove far better if their narratives are not so restricted to the current events of the Asgardians.

My rating: 6 (out of 10)

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